Monday, December 8, 2014

Patterns of Incandescence, Indigo Grief and Sky Girl: Tracking the Body When the Book Goes Live

Catherine Daley, Aurora #313
Photo by Robyn Beattie
" deeply introverted, self-reflective states, brooder and brooded become one in egg-like nuclear processes of crystallization..." The Book of Symbols, Taschen

Fool’s dog, rose, abyss.
Blank book in velvet pouch, spines
Braced for fertile fall.

Heart light, yellow smock,
Red happy boots. I could stop
Or start, sleep, or dream.

When I fall, I wake 
As you, rowan moon silver,
Citrus in my hands.

--Three For the Fool (from this year's Haiku practice)

Just before November Butterfly launched (November 1, 2014, Saddle Road Press), I said to a girlfriend, I wish I could hold this book up to the sky and say: Here are my poems about sunflowers and unicorns!

She, sage and lovely, responded: Why would your poems be made up only of sunflowers and unicorns? Life certainly isn’t.

Another asked, Are you sad? You’re saying goodbye to something that used to belong just to you

They’re both right.  Still, I don’t let go or grow any more gracefully than the next human. Lately I’m uncomfortably aware of a woolly impulse to cocoon or perhaps hibernate in a velvet-lined cloak.

But when you put a book you’ve held close to your heart for years finally out into the world, you have no choice but to grow.  And you certainly can’t hide. I’ve been thinking a lot about a question one of my favorite “sane-media-for-writers” experts Dan Blank (We Grow Media) posed in one of his newsletters five months ago, “What are writers afraid of?”

Tania Pryputniewicz
My answer would be: “Annihilation.” I know it sounds extreme. But the fear of annihilation stems from a fear of exposure directly tied to the content of a handful of the poems in November Butterfly based on rape (both imagined through the eyes of a historical figure and actual). Intellectually, I know better than to fear annihilation, and I know the handful of poems I'm allowing to cause anxiety sit wreathed and far outnumbered by poems focusing on the beauty of earthly incarnation, motherhood and love.

Earlier on blog tour, before the book was out, I was able to address this issue calmly and rationally:

When private writing about trauma, however altered or housed in genre (memoir, creative non-fiction, fiction, or even poetry) goes public, for the writer there’s a re-enactment of exposure. But what differs from the trauma and one’s work appearing is the agency one has as storyteller, the distance one is away from the triggering event, the support of loved ones, and eventually, one hopes, the joy of a kind readership.” (Read rest of First Poetry Book Publication, Fear of Exposure, and Astral Rubbernecking.)

But just as the book materialized from ethereal template on a computer to physical object--poems out of my head and into heads of others--the body had a thing or two to say. As I vacillated between two selves (the self thrilled to be moving on to write new poems for a second collection and the self panicked at thought of moving out of the familiar, suppressive corridors of the past), I came down with a cold.  

Forced to rest and be still, unable to sleep thanks to accompanying fever, I found familiar metaphors visiting one by one: bruised throats, fistfuls of lillies, a murky indigo blue sorrow like the grief that surrounded me just after the birth of my second child in the first days after an encounter with a midwife triggered memories (Sheila's Vine, in Labor Pains and Birth Stories). So palpable, those hoops of shame, lit up like arcs of the Northern Lights above me. 

So of course I haikued my way out…

Indigo griefs—old—
Night’s rainbows, like bruises bloom
Once witnessed, loved, fade.

Photo by Robyn Beattie
I wish the “fade” part would speed up. Days when I’m down on the process, I just want to be whole, another woman capable of desire and joy without intrusion of past. Which of course, for many hours of many days, I am (whole and happy, that is). Which leads me to a sterling concept from another of Dan Blank's newsletters in which he challenged writers to prepare for success. Because both failure and success signal change, require growth. 

I remember years ago (in my tiny flat on Morningside Drive in Iowa City) using paint to create visuals for where I felt creatively blocked. In broad strokes of dark orange against a cobalt sky, the figure of a woman floating took shape, mostly an outline of head and shoulders slimming without feet to a point like an astral projection. I called her "The Fear/Joy." Were I to paint a new woman, embodying the psychic block, as Blank helped me articulate it, I think it would be: "Annihilation/Success."

Butterfly Shadow by Peter Pryputniewicz
As always it matters to cultivate the image garden, to surround oneself with beautiful words, arts, and minds. I love the relaxed and kind way Blank urges us to grow into our goals as writers at a pace that makes sense for one's life and for the long haul. I fill my journals with an eye towards patterns of incandescence, light within mirroring light without. Body as geode, crystallizing. Needing to balance  awarenesses of shadow self and light self. I think about this, driving at night, noticing the way we can't stand to let the night have its dark, filling the countryside with ambient light...

Ambient light's haze
Milky Way's geode blue masked,
We lose sacred dark.

...and so I fill my journals with reading notes about comets seeding the Earth with DNA, (The Book of Symbols), Aurora the Roman Goddess of the dawn crossing the sky to meet brother Helios (Auroras: Fire in the Sky), and lines about Virgo's Three Goddesses (Eve, Isis, and Mary) from astrologer and healer Bonnie Orgren's Stardust Seven Ray Services Soul Centered Astrology Reports.

One final insight about that woozy fever night: eventually the body relinquished its image train. And the Northern Lights morphed from metaphor for shame to unhindered memory of physical beauty I remember witnessing so long ago, gazing up into the Illinois sky as a child: 

Sky girl’s apron falls
Hem first rippling crimson
Orchard of stars hers.

I don’t know who she is, but I love her, this Sky Girl. I’ll climb her apron strings and into the pocket she surely wears just over her heart. Worth the risk of the climb, if only for the view, that orchard of stars to claim.

Related Links

Here are links to the work of a few of the women writers I lean on for strength as I move through this writing/exposure/vulnerability cycle:

Hand-painted Prompt Cards by Suzi Banks Baum
Suzi Banks Baum, of Laundry Line Divine, editor of An Anthology of Babes: 36 Women Give Motherhood a Voice: in a post titled Serendipity Tromps: Quest 2015:

"I will shake loose of my own expectations to look like I have my act together.

I will work, regardless of a confident measured plot, but work with loyalty to my devotion at a pace that supports my roles as writer, maker and mother."

Dora E. McQuaid, Poet, Teacher, Activist, Remarkable Women: Profiles, Art:

"Tell the truth of your own life, your own story, however challenging or uplifting it may be. You never know whom you might change or effect, including yourself."

See also Dora's website for poetry, resources, and more. Dora's latest poetry book is the scorched earth (with companion audio version).

Ruth Thompson, my editor at Saddle Road Press, author of Woman with Crows and Here Along Cazenovia Creek, in an interview conducted by TCJWW:

"I know from my own experience that what you come to, through the death of the self, is a place where the light pours in."

Michelle Wing, Saddle Road Press sister and author of the poetry collection, Body on the Wall, is also one of the editors of the newly released, Cry of the Nightbird, Writers Against Domestic Violence. Wing, in an interview with TCJWW

"I am still writing poems about things that happened many years ago. This is not because I dwell in the past, or because I spend sleepless nights worrying about these things. It is because when I can pull up one more memory out of the vault, turn it over in the light, find both its ugliness and its beauty, and then limn its shape in the form of a poem...I can put that demon to rest."

December 30, 2014 addition:

Ginny Lee Taylor, blogger at Women of Wonder: write. breathe. heal., offers a beautiful post with some hands on suggestions for a livable pace of working with memories and healing:

"And why should we risk triggering and more pain?
Because doing so helps us along on our healing journey, helps us to let go of those sticky threads holding us in the past. By journaling or talking to trusted others about our shadow bag contents, we not only unburden our stories unto someone else or our journals, but more importantly we create a new personal narrative about that memory or feeling, the creation of which is a powerful force in healing from our wounds."
See her simple and sane suggestions here: 

Diving into Your ShadowBag, part 2: #Quest2015

Upcoming January Classes I'll be Teaching:

Luna on the Majors
The Wheel of Archetypal Selves: From Fool to Visionary (The Major Arcana from 0 to V) Online with Story Circle Network

I’m very excited about this class…for some time now I have wanted to take a gradual writing tour through the Major Arcana to follow on the heels of The Minor Mentors class I taught in the spring. Thanks to Story Circle Network, we embark in January 2105. We start with the first six Majors in this class. We’ll write to medleys of images starting with the Fool and end six weeks later with The Hierophant. Approaching the Tarot from a relaxed and open-hearted stance, we will journal and write to prompts and focus on connecting our prior experiences to the archetypes. 

Course runs January 12 to February 23; cost is $192 for members and $240 for non-members. For a unit by unit description and to sign up, visit The Wheel of Archetypal Selves. 

Wether or not you sign up for class, if you love the Tarot, I hope you’ll check out the Wheel of Fortune Tarot’s website. Special thanks to my friend Barbara Rockman (author of the poetry collection Sting and Nest, reviewed here by the Mom Egg) for sharing the link with me. I am stunned not only by the deck’s black and white photographic montage/images, but I am in love with the Wheel of Fortune Tarot's three-dimensional installation (Burning Man 2104). A series of adjacent doors form a perfect ferris wheel round Tarot house or sort of open sky/scarved temple. Each door hosts on its inner side one life-sized Major Arcana (facing into the room the doors form). Anne Stavely and Jill Sutherland are the designers and creators behind the deck. 

Photo by Robyn Beattie
Beginning Blogging 
In person at San Diego Writers, Ink

I’ll be offering a four part blogging series of classes (from Beginning Blogging to Advanced Blogging) in person through San Diego Writers, Ink, starting in January, 2015. Here is the link to the first series of classes for Beginning Bloggers. I welcome bloggers at any point on their blogging trajectory, and former students are always welcome to join us again for blog support. I tailor my courses to fit the needs of each forming class.

New Perhaps, Maybe videos with Liz Brennan

Maybe in the cool morning of fall when the brightest jewels of the hummingbird’s garden fan out from twining vines…. Read text of The Hummingbird's Complaint. Or watch Liz and I reading The Hummingbird’s Complaint.

Maybe like a fish in a bowl in a house of cats…Read text of The Unasked Question. Or watch Liz and I reading The Unasked Question.

Photo by Robyn Beattie
Latest Poetry Prompt for November Butterfly:

I'm enjoying writing poetry prompts for the poems in November Butterfly. The Nefertiti on the Astral prompt signals the end of Section 1 prompts; up next, Mordred's Dream. Come write with me here if you love the Queen of Egypt:

And if nothing else, read this amazing Clive James poem, Nefertiti in the Flak Tower

For beautiful photos of the Auroras, see Auroras: Fire in the Sky
Dan Bortolotti, with photographs by Yuichi Takasaka.

Image Credits: As labelled, by Robyn Beattie; additional artwork by yours truly, Peter Pryputniewicz, and Suzi Banks Baum as labelled. 

If you are still reading, and have the heart, I'd love to hear in comments how you navigate your fears as a writer, your exposures, and your vulnerabilities. Blessings to each and every writer in my life.


Anonymous said...

Oh Tania. I have friends like you. That is how I navigate raw exposure, big posts with no comments, unsubscribing followers, waking up unsure of where to begin.
I run with my pack of wholehearted women and men who believe, you know this, for you are one of them, that we will carry word after another and then, the beginning part is past. Thank you for reading me so soulfully and for sharing my prompts. I am shipping out several sets today and painting more. They are soul missives and I am fed as much in the making as I am in the selling.

I am sticking with you my dear.
And for this, I am grateful.
xoxoxo All my love, Suzi

Tania Pryputniewicz said...

I love what you said here, Suzi: "then, the beginning part is past." That's where the unknown begins, and with it, the fertile connections and tangents and joys that accompany risk. So glad to hear the prompts are shipping out into the world! I love them! The work they will inspire!